North Carolina Zoo Welcomes Second Litter of Rare Red Wolf Pups This Year

Kelli Bender

Let out your celebratory yips! The North Carolina Zoo welcomed their second litter of American red wolf pups in 2020.

The two pups were born on May 4 to parents Taylor and Solo as part of the facility's American red wolf breeding program. This is the second litter of the endangered animal that the zoo has welcomed this year, marking the first time two litters were born in one season as part of the Zoo’s breeding program.

The first litter of five pups was born on April 21. All seven of the new arrivals are said to be healthy and doing well.

The newest pups, named Arrow and May, were named in honor of former North Carolina Zoo keeper Jessi Culbertson, 32, who worked with the red wolves for several years before passing away in 2019 after a courageous battle with cancer. Arrow is named in honor of Culbertson’s Native American Cherokee heritage, and May, for the birth month of both Culbertson and the pups.

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Arrow and May bring the North Carolina Zoo's red wolf pack up to 27 wolves. Right now, the pups are not part of the larger group. They are being kept in a quiet, non-public viewing area of the Zoo and have minimal contact with staff and keepers, so the newborns have the time and space to bond with mom.

Courtesy of the North Carolina Zoo

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Every American red wolf birth is cause for celebrations since there are only 15-20 American red wolves left in the wild, according to the zoo, and all of them live in eastern North Carolina.

“It’s really a testament to the staff’s dedication, teamwork, and passion toward helping one of the most endangered canids in the world,” Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of N.C. Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources, said of the zoo's new litters.

American red wolves, once common throughout the southeastern United States, were driven to the brink of extinction in the 1960s. Thanks to aggressive conservation efforts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and zoos across the country, American red wolf populations in the wild and in captivity are growing.